Early voting for the State Primary Election begins on July 16 culminating in Election Day on August 5.

That also happens to be the same day that early voting begins for the County General Election in Davidson and some other counties. Soon after the primary, the State General Election takes place on Nov. 2 with early voting starting on Oct. 13.

Among the offices up for grabs are governor, all nine congressional representatives from Tennessee, half the state Senate, and all of the state House of Representatives.

These two elections matter a great deal for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community in Tennessee. We may see the effects of them for the next 10 years.

Skeptical? The facts are pretty clear.

The members of the General Assembly elected this year will set the plan for redistricting congressional districts and state legislative districts. As it stands, we have two solid allies in the U.S. Congress; we could be down to one after 2012. And although we’re making progress fighting bad legislation in the state General Assembly now, some of the representatives and senators we’ve been moving towards acceptance may not be there in a few years if their districts are absorbed into others.

Still not convinced these elections are a big deal?

I’ve already found six candidates for the Tennessee House of Representatives with anti-equality messages on their websites. Three current Metro Nashville Council members who voted against the non-discrimination ordinance are running for House seats. Electing any of them could tip the balance in favor of those trying to enact bad legislation such as the adoption ban or the ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill. If you think advancing positive legislation at the state level is tough now, it could get a lot worse.

What can you do?

The first step is to register to vote, or change your registration if you’ve moved in the last year. You can find out how at the Tennessee Secretary of State’s website, http://www.tn.gov/sos/election/.

Second, learn who is running to represent you. You can find all the candidates for State House and State Senate races by going to http://tnsos.org/elections/2010CandidatesState.php?showall.

Once you find the people running for your district, search the Web for information about them. Get their e-mail address and contact them about the issues that matter to you.

Third, vote and get your friends to vote.

Fourth, if you really want to make a difference, volunteer your time for candidates you support. Don’t assume that they have all the help they need. You can contact me at chris@tnequalityproject.com to get help finding a candidate near who might need your volunteer efforts.
Let’s turn out the equality vote this year. The stakes are high — given the number of close races over the last few years, our votes could make the difference.

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